Day 514 - La Balsa, Peru - 11081 km


The last days in Ecuador are green and warm. I’ve descended from the high Andes and the lower altitudes are good for a much more friendly landscape. It’s still incredibly hilly. In the 80 km of direct distance to the border, the road needs 150 km to zig zag up and down the hills where I have to climb over 4000 meters in total. The road is unpaved so you can sort of calculate how much slower the progress is. On a straight paved road I would do this distance in a day, where I need 4 here to get into Peru. This will only get more once the mountains of the Andes become higher and steeper continuing south.

The border crossing is small, there are barely travellers, except from a young Polish couple who are hitchhiking from Cartagena (Colombia) to Lima. I saw them earlier on the road passing in the back of pick up truck. Together we’re sharing passports to the border control officer and fill in some papers. The officer types in the details in a Excel sheet and shares photos of our passports through a Whatsapp account. It all looks very low profile. Stamps are set and I can continue over the bridge towards the Peruvian border. There’s a few small shops that sell food and money exchangers hang on their motorbikes. A vaccination is required and a friendly woman stabs a needly in my arm. After the many borders I’ve crossed, this is a first.

It’s late in the afternoon and I stock up with food and water to find a camp spot. I’d considered taking a hotel, but Namballa, the first town looks so poverty stricken that I don’t botter to ask around. My tent is more luxurious than the hotels or hospedajes in these small towns. When I cycle up the road out of town I see two heads in the long grass along the river. It’s the Polish couple who walked up here and found a camp spot. I’m invited to share camp. We’re at 600 meters altitude, which qualifies for hot and humid rainforest. A completely different world of vegetation and climate than a week ago at 3000 meters. The chicades sing their loudest song when it gets dark. Because of the heat I consider sleeping outside. There are no mosquitos. But there is a chance of rain, so I only set up the outer tent and put my air mattress on top of the inner tent, which is only attached on the underside of the outertent. The 1-person Hilleberg Akto tent I have well isolated because it doesn’t have a mesh, so leaving down the inner tent allows a cool breeze in.

It was a good call to sleep in the tent. Not long after going to bed the rain poured down, like it only does in the tropics. In a tent you hear every single rain drop falling so you always wake up. I could hear the water seep under the tent fabric, which was only underneath my mattress, all my luggage was straight on the ground. Half asleep I looked around if everything was underneath the tent roof. I put something underneath my Carradice bag — which holds my Macbook, drone and other valuables — to lift it off the ground and protect it from the water that was now streaming through the tent. The canvas bag is waterproof to an extend, but if it sits in water for a few hours it will soak it up. I slept badly that night, worrying about the flooding.

In the morning it was dry. I checked the bags, everything was damp, but eventually didn’t leave any damage. The Polish couple, a few meters down the hill, were wringing out clothes. They had more flooding because they were slightly on a slope and the base of their tent had some holes in it. We were all wet, but not miserable. We laughed it away during breakfast.

During the next days I even declined further in altitude and was surrounded by rice paddies and palm trees. A nice variation of landscape before climbing back into the Andes.

A bamboo trail in Vilcabamba (Ecuador)

A bamboo trail in Vilcabamba (Ecuador)

Rio Chinchipe, which separates Ecuador from Peru, at La Balsa.

Rio Chinchipe, which separates Ecuador from Peru, at La Balsa.